Saturday, April 30, 2022

Not All Desires Are Bad (Philippians 1:23)

For many different reasons, we can say that not all desires are bad: a person who desires to be a congregation overseer or elder for the right reasons/motives is said to be desirous of a fine work (1 Timothy 3:1); God promises to satisfy the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:16), and it is completely fine for someone to desire eternal/everlasting life on a paradise earth (Psalm 37:29). But what about those who have the heavenly hope? Should they desire to be with their heavenly bridegroom?

The inspired apostle Paul writes: συνέχομαι δὲ ἐκ τῶν δύο, τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι, πολλῷ γὰρ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον

See the post here for some of my previous thoughts on Philippians 1:23:

Paul wanted to remain with the early Christians in order to upbuild and encourage them, to help them make spiritual progress. However, he said that the desire to be with Christ was exerting pressure on him. As Paul stated matters, to be with Christ is far better than being on earth, even among one's friends. Yet the apostle was confident that he would remain on earth to benefit the Philippians and others.

Another lesson we can take from this verse is that not all desires are wrong. While it's prudent and godly to repudiate worldly desire (Titus 2:12; 1 Peter 4:2-3), there is nothing wrong with pursuing spiritual desires mutandis mutatis. Quite frankly, not even all "mundane" desires have to be bad. If someone desires marriage to a godly partner and the desire is guided by Bible principles, it's not wrong. Paul made this point clear in 1 Corinthians 7:36-38.

There are obvious considerations to make before getting married, but the point is that desires in se are not necessarily wrong: some are actually righteous, proper, and noble.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Hebrews 5:10 (Morphology, Syntax, and Semantics)

This is my concluding post about Hebrews 5, for now.

Greek (SBLGNT):  προσαγορευθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀρχιερεὺς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ.

Jesus Christ is the subject of this verse (Hebrews 5:5-9). προσαγορευθεὶς is the aorist passive participle nominative singular masculine of προσαγορεύω: this verb can mean "to call by name" or "designate." It only appears here in the GNT.

William L. Lane (Hebrews 1-8, WB Commentary): "The verb προσαγορεύειν contains the idea of a formal and solemn ascription of an honorific title (Moulton and Howard, Grammar, 2:399). The use of the verb with the meaning 'to address, hail, salute' in the sense of an acclamation finds illustration in the papyri (MM 545)."

ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ-"by God"; compare Luke 2:21; Acts 10:42; Romans 13:1; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 1:4; Hebrews 5:4. The occurrence of the Greek preposition with the genitive case here indicates agency (either direct or ultimate agency). See Wallace, GGBB, page 164; Smyth, section 1493.

BDAG on ἀρχιερεὺς:-β by fig. extension, of Christ, who serves as high priest by atoning for the sins of humans Hb 2:17; 3:1 (w. ἀπόστολος); 5:10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1; 9:11; 1 Cl 61:3; 64; IPhld 9:1; MPol 14:3. ἀ. μέγας (1 Macc 13:42; Philo, Somn. 1, 219; Michel 1231, 1; cp. also the ἀ. μέγιστος=pontifex maximus of imperial ins) Hb 4:14 (GFriedrich, TZ 18, ’62, 95–115); ἀ. τῶν προσφορῶν 1 Cl 36:1. Cp. ANairne, The Epistle of Priesthood 1913, 135ff; HWindisch, Hdb., exc. on Hb 9:14; JUbbink, NThSt 22, ’39, 172–84 (on Hb); MDibelius, D. himml. Kultus nach Hb: ThBl 21, ’42, 1–11; HWenschkewitz, D. Spiritualisierung d. Kultusbegriffe Tempel, Priester u. Opfer im NT ’32; OMoe, D. Priestert. Christi im NT ausserhalb des Hb: TLZ 72, ’47, 335–38; GSchille, Erwägungen zur Hohepriesterlehre des Hb: ZNW 56, ’55, 81–109; AJansen, Schwäche u. Vollkommenheit des H-priesters Christus, diss. Rome, ’57.

Hebrews likely bases its use of
ἀρχιερεὺς on Psalm 110:4 although more than one commentator observes that the psalm only refers to a priest, not a high priest. See Harold W. Attridge, Hebrews (Hermeneia Series), page 154. Compare Philo, Abr. 235. See also

κατὰ τὴν τάξιν-"after the order" or "according to the order" (Mounce); compare Hebrews 6:20. See Kenneth L. Schenck, Cosmology and Eschatology in Hebrews, page 106-111; Smyth, section 1690.2c: κατὰ τοὺς νόμους.

The Greek preposition
κατὰ occurs with the accusative case here which signifies conformity: as stated above, render "according to" or "in accordance with," etc. The word taxis later had an important role in Christological and Trinitarian debates.

Μελχισέδεκ (genitive singular masculine here) occurs 8x in the GNT, all of which are in Hebrews--the word is a proper name that's indeclinable.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

James 1:22-27 (Some Thoughts)

As I conclude this discussion of James 1, I now turn toward the chapter's closing verses. This blog entry concentrates on specific parts of James 1:22-27 without going into technical depth about most of the grammar or syntax.

James 1:22 shows the importance of applying God's word rather than being a hearer only. In the GNT, παραλογίζομαι occurs here and in Colossians 2:4. The next portion of this chapter then illustrates why "doing God's word" is so important--why one should not be a forgetful hearer of the divine law. Kurt A. Richardson (James:
An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture) writes:

"To be a hearer or to have faith only (cf. 2:24) is self-deceiving. Faith must be demonstrated (cf. 3:13), and to miss this is a fundamental flaw in understanding. No one who has called upon God for wisdom can or should think undemonstrated faith is true."
James 1:23 gives the example of a person looking at his/her natural face in a mirror (ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ). Imagine the person gazing in the mirror, then seeing that some adjustments need to be made (e.g., hair needs to be combed, teeth need to be brushed, face needs to be washed), but then he/she walks off and immediately forgets (εὐθέως ἐπελάθετο) what the mirror revealed (see James 1:24). This is what it's like to hear the word of God but then not apply it (do what it says). ἔσοπτρον occurs elsewhere in the GNT at 1 Corinthians 13:12.

Martin Dibelius takes note of the participle introducing the mirror simile in 1:23 (
κατανοοῦντι), which he takes to mean that James 1:23 encapsulates all that needs to be said about the mirror comparison: verse 24 just underscores the simile (Dibelius, James, page 115). He also takes the verbs here to be gnomic aorists (e.g., κατενόησεν, ἐπελάθετο), but I disagree that James' mirror comparison has no connection with known examples in antiquity.

Luke T. Johnson makes a perceptive observation about this aspect of the epistle (The Letter of James, page 208):

In the Hellenistic world the mirror (usually made of polished metal) was chiefly used for purposes of personal inspection and adornment (Aristotle, On Dreams 459B-460A; Josephus, Ant. 12:81; Sir 12:11; Seneca, Natural Questions 1, 17, 2-3). But the fact that the mirror provided a reflection of the self obviously gave it metaphorical potential. In one direction, an epistemological distinction was developed, in which the mirror signified the distance between reality and image (sec Plato, Timaeus 33B; Hermetica 17; Wis 7:26); this seems to be the sense in 1 Cor 13:12 and possibly 2 Cor 3:18. In another direction, the mirror is used in paraenetic literature for the image of 'moral self-examination/reflection' (sec, e.g., Epictetus, Discourses II, 14, 17-23; Seneca, Natural Questions 1,17,4; On Anger 36:1-3; Plutarch, Advice to Bride and Groom 14 and 25 ([Mor. 139F and 141D]). The analogy is worked out especially by Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures 8 (Mor. 42A-B), who employs the theme of memory in a manner similar to James. Sec also Plutarch, The Education of Children 13-20 (Mor. 9F-14A); Progress in Virtue 14-15 (Mor. 84B-85A); Seneca, On Clemency I, 1, 1; I, 1,7; I,6,1; I,7,1; I,15,3; Philo, Contemplative Life 25, 29, 75, 85, 88. There is no reason to connect the metaphor here to any notion of the "image of God" (against Martin 50, 55). Above all, it is certainly erroneous to assert that "James is not relying on any fixed tradition or previous literature" (Davids, 98), for his allusion makes sense only within the intertextual field here described.
On the other hand, the person who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom (
ὁ δὲ παρακύψας εἰς νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας) and continues in it (καὶ παραμείνας), because he is not a forgetful hearer of the word, that one will be happy or blessed by God since this kind of person is a doer of Jehovah God's work (οὗτος μακάριος ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ ἔσται).

James 1:26 transitions to how one uses the tongue and it defines the nature of true religiosity in contrast to mere formalism. However, this verse not only introduces a new subject and works toward a rhetorical terminus, but it forms a nexus with James 1:19 and foreshadows the discussion in chapter three about the tongue. (Compare James 1:22 where it warns against self-deception).

Ralph Earle points out that James utilizes
the nominal θρησκὸς as a predicate adjective in 1:26. See Word Meanings in the New Testament, page 433. While the term appears to encompass outward religious observances, I do not think it always carries pejorative overtones.

Kurt A. Richardson (James):
"James called the religion that goes with an uncontrolled tongue 'worthless.' His attention was on the practices of religion, its services and sacrifices. Worthless religion is then merely external and a virtual idolatry involving self-deception."

What then constitutes true religion? How should it be practiced? The kind of religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is the type (
παρὰ τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὕτη ἐστίν) that looks after orphans and widows in their tribulation and it remains unspotted from the world. Compare James 1:2-4; 2:14-17; 4:1-4; 5:1-6.

θρησκεία-compare Colossians 2:18, 23. This word appears 4x in the GNT. Louw-Nida (Semantic Domain 53.1) gives this rendering for θρησκεία in James 1:26: "if he does not control his tongue, he deceives himself, and his religion is worthless." Ralph Earle adds this additional information (Word Meanings in the New Testament, page 433):

"The noun is thrēskeia in both places. In verse 26 it carries its primary sense of outward observances, but in verse 27 it seems to include more. It consists not only of righteous acts but also of pure character."

καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος-"pure and undefiled"; see Philo of Alexandria, De Fuga Et Inventione 114; Hermas, Mand. ii.4; Sim. v. 7. The words constitute a possible hendiadys in this verse (McCartney); J.B. Mayor maintains they're often employed concurrently (The Epistle of James, page 73).

παρὰ τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὕτη ἐστίν-God is identified as Father in this verse: the Most High God is infrequently called "Father" in the Hebrew Bible, but GNT writers use the designation more liberally, and this is probably because of Jesus' practice in the days of his flesh, also due to his preexistence, and Jesus' Abba experience (Mark 14:36). Compare James 1:17.

ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν-the verb denotes the act of caring for, providing for, and looking after someone. ESV renders this part, "to visit orphans and widows in their affliction"; NET translates, "to care for orphans and widows in their adversity"--compare how BDAG handles ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν. See NET note for James 1:27.

Rogers and Rogers:

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Some Thoughts on Numbers 25:8

NWT 2013: "Then he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman through her genital parts. At that the scourge on the Israelites was halted."

NET Bible: "and went after the Israelite man into the tent[a] and thrust through the Israelite man and into the woman’s abdomen.[b] So the plague was stopped from the Israelites."

"Went in after the Israelite into the brothel house, and thrust both of them through together, to wit, the man and the woman in the genital parts. And the scourge ceased from the children of Israel"

ESV: "and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped."

Jacob Milgrom (Numbers):